Forge, 2002 (2001)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
his fourth book in the O'Malley family saga (after
A Midwinter's Tale
Younger Than Springtime
) follows the fortunes of this liberal Chicago Irish Catholic clan through the sixties, era of Camelot and its demise, long hair and hippies, the Beatles, the Vietnam war, Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Of course, consistently lively and lovely family members are involved in each and every crisis of the times. Charles Cronin 'Chuck' O'Malley has just finished a stint as U.S. Ambassador to Germany. He opens the story by making an accurate prediction to Lyndon Baines Johnson of the outcome of his policy in Vietnam, and refusing to work for his administration.
hucky, as his family calls him, is a perfect, though reckless, husband. He is also a talented photographer, who likes to poke his camera into political hot spots in and outside of his own country. We are told that he is highly sexed as is his gorgeous, and equally activist, wife Rosemarie. She struggles with a very low self esteem stemming from a history of parental abuse and alcoholism, but fortunately has been helped by Chucky and by a very competent shrink. The reader watches Rosemarie pull herself together and discover her own value as a person and as a mother (she even goes through a brief mid-life feminist crisis). This seemed to me to be one of the most telling records of the times in the book; the evolution of women's views of themselves - even if Rosemarie's case does seem extreme.
lthough the antics of its protagonists are often improbable, they touch on all the major events of the period. Reading this story brings back memories to anyone who lived through these turbulent times in North America. The love expressed within the family is endearing, and Rosie's self-deprecation engages the reader's sympathy, as do family brushes with danger and tragedy . Chucky and Rosemarie are opinionated (presumably expressing the authors' views) on political and church developments, and whether or not a reader agrees, it's an interesting commentary on history. Read
to immerse yourself in the sixties, perhaps the most intriguing decade of the last century. The story continues an idealistic and romantic family saga - and the author's note at the end hints at another episode featuring the ex-radical, but still political, daughter April Rosemary.
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